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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Stravinsky and Glazunov conduct
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Petrushka, ballet suite (1911) [23:05]
Pulcinella, ballet suite (1920) [11:00]
Symphony Orchestra; Walther Straram Concert Orchestra/Igor Stravinsky
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
The Seasons, ballet in one act, Op.67 (1900) [34:55]
Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Glazunov
rec. 27–28 June 1928, London, Matrix nos.: WAX 3867/72; First issue Columbia L 2173/5 (Petrushka); 6 May 1932, 12 November 1928, Studio Albert and Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris, Matrix nos.: WLX 1605/6 and WLX 626/7; first issue French Columbia LFX 289 and D 15126 (Pulcinella); 10, 13-14 June 1929, Portman Rooms, London, Matrix nos.: WAX 5009/10, 5014/6 and 5022/4, first issued Columbia LX 16/8 and 29/30

These recordings are a showcase for a young composer close to setting out on a lifetime of international glory and a much older composer at the edge of eclipse who was lured into a hall with recording equipment. The disc is another triumph for producer and audio restoration engineer, Mark Obert-Thorn - a regular with Pristine. There's only so much you can do with recordings from 1928-32 but what can be done has been done. The orchestra in Petrushka can sound like a vast hurdy-gurdy but solo lines emerge very creditably and most of the time this music-making sounds healthy enough. There are bumpy side-transitions between Shrovetide Fair and Wet Nurse's Dance and between Dance of the Coachmen and The Masqueraders but they're gone in a blink. Background has been tamped down to almost nothing which is welcome given that treble attack does not feel as if has been blunted. To have this composer-directed artefact is nothing short of miraculous. It is superbly tracked for the explorer and music analyst. Stravinsky and his orchestra manage the fine-bezel micrometer accelerations in The Dance of the Coachmen most impressively - it's meant to be a queasy piece of disorientation and that's the way it comes across. Off to Paris then an 11 minute Pulcinella Suite. This is honed sharp and suffers only in the Minuetto with a couple of bars of surface scuffing. Intriguing that Stravinsky makes little of the cool delight of the woodwind writing in the final section.

Stravinsky was clearly a shaker of the temple pillars while Glazunov inhabited the temple. Although in his last decade he turns in a performance of his The Seasons that is bright as a new-minted penny. OK, it has been cut, but you get a good epitome of the complete work - full of guile and joyous charm. If you have tried the other Glazunov ballets and come away feeling empty this is the antidote. It is flighty and runs on rocket fuel and champagne. What's more the snappy precise playing is delightful and you can access the score across no fewer than twelve hard-won tracks. Is that Glazunov coughing at 0:44 in tr. 20 - never noticed that before. More seriously the rapturous melody in tr. 21 is a delight which helps compensate for a lead-shod Autumn in trs. 24 and 26. There's so much here that is excellent; such a pity that Glazunov did not record the Fourth Symphony. If you want the whole of The Seasons then try to track down Svetlanov's 1977 HMV disc although even that does not trounce the ex-Melodiya Boris Khaikin version. Melodiya really should reach back to analogue treasures like the Khaikin and issue the results themselves. We should not forget that Pristine have more Glazunov: the two piano concertos played by his step-daughter in 1956.

As for this disc we can join Pristine in thanking not only M O-T but also those assiduous collectors Nathan Brown and Charles Niss who opened their archives to make this disc possible.

Rob Barnett
Previous review: Jonathan Woolf



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